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Oppose the pipe project

We know that the council and mayor are asked to address myriad issues; time and resources are precious and the easiest path is to rely on city staff to provide the facts needed to decide wisely. The council may also realize that Ashland citizens do not normally band together to oppose intelligent, rational and cost-effective uses of our finite resources.

With regard to the Ashland TID Canal Project, I think we can all agree upon the facts that water leakage must be stopped, water contaminants must be addressed and cost to the public must be minimized. Both the city public works proposal to pipe the entire two-plus miles and the citizens alternative to repair and maintain the canal will eliminate the water loss caused by the years of neglecting to maintain the canal. We can also agree that neither proposal will eliminate pollutants carried by TID water that ultimately are added to Ashland Creek. Contamination starts at the mountain source of the water and builds over miles of open channel until it reaches our city border and “our” section of canal.

The cost to repair and maintain the canal will obviously cost much less than the pipe proposal, and this is highlighted much more by the recent estimates for the new city water treatment plant. Cost estimates went from $23 million to $36 million because of unforeseen factors. In the pipe project, we have the same situation about to unfold.

Estimates for the pipe project sit at around $3.7 million, but no engineering has been done to study groundwater, hillside springs, private property damage, etc. Using simple math, can we expect the piping to end up costing $5.5 million to $6 million or more? This is an unknown, but we know it will not cost $3.7 millionm. To repair the canal will cost $800,000 to $900,000 (we have a contractor’s bid) with a guaranteed 50 to 100 years of service if properly and inexpensively maintained; quite the bargain in comparison!

In the years ahead, should the TID and others decide to pipe the many miles of open canal in Southern Oregon, that would be the time to consider a project to pipe our section. Overall cost would be lessened as part of a large-scale project, and financial burden on the Ashland resident would be minimized. At that future time, damage to private property and the loss of a community asset might be seen as a trade-off necessary to improve the big picture of water quality and conservation.

Whether it is ill-conceived, or simply a project that is putting the cart before the horse, the citizens of Ashland should be spared the grief and unknown cost of piping the stretch of TID canal in our care. We have bigger and more pressing strains on the city budget and staff at this time. Please, do the right thing and oppose the Ashland Canal pipe project!

John Hauschild lives in Ashland.